Someone recently on Twitter asked if other people read while they are writing. Personally, I feel at a loose end if I don’t have at least two books on the go at any one time, although some of them have been on the go for a while now. I’ll get there in the end.
I do know that I have to be careful to not let what I am reading influence the way I write, as I’m aware of how easily others’ styles can reflect into my own work. It’s probably not a big deal most of the time, unless one chapter reads like Janet Evanovich, and the next like Jane Austen, which could be a bit confusing for my readers. I hope that any of these influences are rounded out during the rewriting and editing processes, like a pebble getting rounded in a riverbed.
I’ve been thinking back to some of the books I’ve read at important times in my life, and wondering if they follow any kind of pattern. I read Hunter S. Thompson‘s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ during my final exams at high school, which may not have been a great idea in terms of a calming influence, but perhaps said something about breaking out of the system.
I read Charlotte Bronte‘s ‘Jane Eyre’ to distract me when a very beloved pet died, and found it’s length and the intricacies of the language a really good distraction from the ragged hole I was carrying around in my chest.
I re-read two of Diana Gabaldon‘s books, ‘Cross stitch’ and ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ when I had medical issues recently, and had to spend time hanging around doctors surgeries a lot. Partly because I’m a tad paranoid about the germs which must be lurking in surgery waiting room magazines (I mean, think who has handled them over the last ten years – and what contagious diseases did they have?), and partly because they are absorbing. I think having read them before increased their soothing effect, as I knew more of less where we were going.
When I’m sick with the ‘flu, I always seem to turn to James Herriot‘s stories of being a vet in the Yorkshire Dales, possibly for the same sort of reasons.
There are various sources which suggest that reading can really help us through the bad times, such as these ones discussing the effect of reading on depression: Reading your way out of depression, and Reading as a Form of Depression Therapy.
Would love to hear your thoughts!